Tiny Midges Key to Salmon Health

May 2, 2008 By: Marshall Cutchin

Peter Cranston, an entomology professor at UC Davis, is the world’s foremost expert on chironomids, which most fly fishers know as “midges.” He was recently surprised to discover a new species of midge in his own backyard, but even more surprised when with the help of other researchers he linked it to the health of salmon populations in the Sacramento Valley. As biologists argue over the reasons for the dramatic decline in salmon numbers that caused the state to close the fishery this year, Cranston notes that the discoveries like this may unlock the secret to saving a species. “‘It’s a web of interacting species, and the more species you pull out of that web, the more sensitive the rest of it is to any fluctuations,’ he said. ‘What are the salmon going to feed on if this fly goes extinct? It should make a person nervous.'”